by David P. Greisman
It was fitting that an event marketed behind the Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!” slogan would end not with an astonishing accomplishment or amazing action, but on an odd sequence of actions and decisions – and a bizarre conclusion that could only leave a person shaking his head in, well, disbelief.
One couldn’t be begrudged for expressing more than a little disgust as well.
The fight between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson ended on a technical knockout that wasn’t.
It ended because of a foul that wasn’t called.
It ended on an injury in the second round that either prevented an already ugly fight from being ugly for a disastrous 12 rounds, or prevented an ugly fight early from becoming better later.
It ended toward the end of the round, shortly after Hopkins missed Dawson with a right hand. Dawson ducked down, and Hopkins moved forward to tie the fighters up, as had happened a few times before. This time, Hopkins leaned his weight over Dawson’s back, and Dawson stood up, lifting Hopkins from the canvas, cradling Hopkins’ right leg with his left hand and then using his right shoulder to shove Hopkins away.
Hopkins fell backward, his head brushing against the ropes and his left elbow crashing on the mat. He remained there, rolling on his back in pain and telling the referee, Pat Russell, that he had injured his shoulder. The fight was soon waved off. Russell said that no foul had been called, and because of that the result would be a technical knockout victory for Dawson.
Believe it or not, this was a fight for the true light heavyweight championship, a fight that thousands had paid to see live, a fight that others had paid to watch at home. But even those who had spent nothing and watched an illegal stream still would have been unhappy with the ending.
Sometimes big boxing matches will be ugly or boring – see Timothy Bradley’s junior-welterweight unification bout against Devon Alexander or Wladimir Klitschko’s heavyweight unification bout against David Haye. Or, rather, don’t watch them again.
Sometimes fights that were expected to be entertaining end before they can become so – Arturo Gatti stopped Leonard Dorin on a body shot before the two warriors could wind up in their usual war.
Boxing fans don’t always know what they’re going to see. But they do know what they see once it happens. And what they saw this past Saturday was a fight that ended on an injury, an injury that was caused by a foul, and a referee who disregarded that foul and decided to call it a technical knockout.
Believe it or not, the push was indeed a foul.
Whether it was an accidental foul or an intentional foul, whether the fight took place under the rules of the California State Athletic Commission or the unified rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions, Dawson clearly lifted Hopkins up and pushed Hopkins away with his shoulder. Both sets of rules label that a foul.
Were it ruled an intentional foul, and with Hopkins unable to continue, that’d result in a disqualification. Were the foul ruled accidental, the fight would become a draw under California rules or a no decision under the unified rules.
Russell was interviewed Sunday by Steve Kim of MaxBoxing.com. And though Kim’s article was not yet published when this article went to press, Kim noted on Twitter what Russell said during the interview. “Pat Russell was very candid in saying [that] he called what he saw, not what he thought might have happened,” Kim tweeted.
It’s hard to figure out how Russell missed it. One HBO replay had a camera looking directly over Russell’s shoulder, showing Dawson lifting Hopkins and then shoving him away. Even though the referee probably couldn’t see the shoulder, he could see Dawson’s motion and the subsequent action of Hopkins falling.
He should’ve seen the cause and tied it to the effect, to Hopkins’ injury.
Believe it or not, Hopkins was legitimately injured.
Golden Boy Promotions (Hopkins’ promoter) sent out an early morning press release via Hopkins’ publicist about two hours after the fight ended, noting that Hopkins had been released from a Los Angeles hospital. A doctor had diagnosed him with a separation of the acromioclavicular joint connecting the collarbone and shoulder blade, it said.
Dan Rafael of ESPN.com posted a photo on Twitter of Hopkins’ hospital paperwork, which noted the same diagnosis.
Even before that, replays had captured the pain on Hopkins’ face as his elbow hit the canvas.
What the doubters saw was a Hopkins who had taken time to recover – some would say overreact – to a low blow from Joe Calzaghe and to a rabbit punch from Roy Jones Jr.
Yes, Bernard Hopkins had continued to fight after being similarly slammed to the canvas in his rematch with Antwun Echols, knocking Echols down the very next round and stopping him four rounds after the foul. But that was the Hopkins of 2000 facing the tough but still beatable, Antwun Echols, not the Hopkins of 2011 facing the once-beaten but still difficult Chad Dawson.
Hopkins said afterward that he would’ve fought on had he known the fight was going to be ruled a technical knockout loss. Given that knowledge, every fighter would make that choice. Otherwise, rare is the fighter who continues to fight through debilitating injury against a challenging opponent.
Believe it or not, Saturday’s wrongs could be righted – eventually.
Steve Kim aptly noted that California’s athletic commission had overturned other wrong decisions in the past, in particular Timothy Bradley’s fight against Nate Campbell and James Toney’s rematch with Hasim Rahman, both of which ended as technical knockouts that were later overruled. The commission correctly ruled that the fight-ending injuries had been caused by head butts.
California’s commission also overturned Kirk Johnson’s technical knockout loss to Javier Mora in 2006, in which Mora stepped on Johnson’s foot, and Johnson fell and suffered a dislocated knee.
It seems highly probable that once Hopkins’ camp files a protest, the California commission will review the decision and then change it.
It shouldn’t have to wait.
If the NFL can quickly review referees’ crucial calls and make a ruling, why can’t state athletic commissions use instant replay when there’s controversy surrounding a fight-ending injury? The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board added that option several years ago. It seems silly that other states have not followed suit, particularly for fights in which a multitude of television cameras are around.
Believe it or not, “Believe it or Not!” will be the only time Hopkins and Dawson share the ring.
That’ll be the case even if the result is overturned and if the commission rules the bout a no decision.
If the technical knockout ruling stands, then Dawson is the light heavyweight champion, no matter how cheap a manner in which the crowning happened, and he is destined to make money in Quebec in a rematch with Jean Pascal – the man who beat Dawson to become champion and the man whom Hopkins beat to become champion.
Dawson-Pascal 2 should still happen if Hopkins regains his championship via athletic commission ruling. There’s no money in a Hopkins-Dawson rematch, not with the ugly two rounds the public saw on pay-per-view. That the bout was on pay-per-view was only because of money HBO had guaranteed to both fighters for a “World Championship Broadcast” before deciding to try to recoup on its investment.
Dawson has not been able to sell tickets, but he will not need to in a province where Pascal packs them in. Hopkins is not a tremendous draw either, but he still has one fight remaining on his HBO contract – and Tavoris Cloud, an offense-minded fighter whom the network has spotlighted before, might be in need of an opponent.
Believe it or not, Hopkins-Cloud and Pascal-Dawson 2 could be fights worth watching – so long as they’re not on pay-per-view.
The 10 Count
1. Boxing writer Bart Barry of 15rounds.com said it well on Twitter this weekend: “Can any fighter rival the sum of these pay-per-view achievements? Hopkins-Taylor II, Hopkins-Wright, Hopkins-Jones II, Hopkins-Dawson.”
At times, I love watching Bernard Hopkins fight. And at times, I hate watching Bernard Hopkins fight.
When our hopes are highest, he wins via stinker. And when we count him out, he shocks us with another stunning performance.
2. Yes, the jokes about David Haye retiring last week were obvious – “Didn’t he actually make that decision during the Wladimir Klitschko bout?” – but he officially hung up his gloves last week on his 31st birthday, according to various reports.
“As the clock struck 12 last night, my professional boxing career came to an end,” Haye was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “It has been my intention to retire from the sport of boxing on this particular day ever since I first laced up a pair of gloves as a skinny 10-year old.”
Despite his performance against Klitschko, it actually would’ve been interesting to see Haye continue to fight at heavyweight, to see if he had learned from his loss and could silence those of us who mocked him afterward.
But assuming this is not a ploy – there had been talk recently of negotiations between Haye’s camp and Vitali Klitschko’s camp, though Haye’s manager said the talks amounted to just one conversation that turned out not to be substantive – Haye’s retirement is understandable. There comes a point for some athletes where a sport becomes less fun and more work, and where it just isn’t necessary or worth it anymore.
If Haye can leave with his health and his wealth intact, and if he’s proud of what he did with his career (and he should be), then there’s no shame in leaving the sport now. Lord knows far too many boxers fight on much longer than they should.
3. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jake Donovan – a BoxingScene.com writer who is one of the best and busiest boxing writers around – is donating money to the American Cancer Society.
And all you need to do is follow him on Twitter (@JakeNDaBox). He is contributing 25 cents for each new follower he gets, and another dollar for every gain of 25 in his number of total followers (300, 325, etc.).
He’s doing this through Oct. 31, and I’m now joining him with the same pledge. Follow me on Twitter – @fightingwords2
After all, this is far more worthwhile to me than buying another Bernard Hopkins pay-per-view would be…
4. Sept. 17, 2011, pay-per-view main event: The fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz ends in the fourth round after Ortiz intentionally fouls Mayweather, apologizes too many times, drops his hands and gets knocked out.
Oct. 15, 2011, pay-per-view main event: The bout between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson ends in the second round after Hopkins leans over Dawson, is lifted into the air and then pushed down to the canvas, where he falls and dislocates a joint on top of his shoulder.
Nov. 12, 2011, pay-per-view main event: The third match between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will be called off, just as Marquez walks to the ring, due to urine-related controversy.
5. Boxers Behaving Badly, part one: British lightweight contender Kevin Mitchell has been sentenced to 100 hours of community service after being caught with a butterfly knife in his car, according to that country’s Barking and Dagenham Post.
He’s also been fined and is under a curfew for the next three months.
This wasn’t Mitchell’s first run-in with the law this year. In April he was arrested and accused of “possessing cocaine and running a cannabis farm,” according to The Sun. His mother was also arrested.
Mitchell, 26, is 32-1 with 24 knockouts. His last appearance was a July technical knockout win over John Murray.
6. Boxers Behaving Badly, part two: A Filipino former flyweight – no, not the one you just thought of – was arrested last month and accused of possessing and selling shabu, or methamphetamine, according to that country’s Cebu Daily News.
Apol Suico allegedly sold the drug to an undercover buyer. Police said they found cash and more packets of the drug after arresting him.
Suico turned pro in 2005 against a guy named Manny Pacquan (yes, Pacquan), according to BoxRec.com, then fought through 2010, going 10-6 with six knockouts. His record includes a first-round loss in 2007 to Moruti Mthalane, who these days is a 112-pound beltholder.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part one: Troubled former Olympian boxer Ron Siler was sentenced last month to one year in prison for a probation violation, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Siler has a criminal history that would take far too long to detail in this space. Just know that he had to be released from behind bars just to train for the 2004 Olympics, and the 31-year-old has been in and out of trouble so much that he didn’t make his pro debut until 2010.
He went 1-1 in those fights last year and was supposed to keep fighting in 2011. Yet he fell back into trouble, pleaded guilty earlier this year to cocaine possession. That landed him two years of probation, and then, according to the Enquirer, he “failed to report to his probation officer, failed to submit to drug testing, failed to pay the $1,000 fine imposed on him and then was jailed Sept. 1 after his arrest for trying to sell a gun and bulletproof vest to an undercover officer.”
8. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part two: Ron Boyd, who mostly fought as a designated opponent between junior lightweight and junior welterweight, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for choking and punching his ex-wife after seeing her hug another man at a bar in April 2010, according to The Washington Post.
The woman was shot and killed several months later; there haven’t been any charges filed against anyone in her death.
Boyd, 41, fought from 2003 to 2010, going 6-11-1 with two knockouts. His record includes a first-round loss in 2007 to lightweight John Molina.
9. Clubber Lang, a mostly bald, bearded, knockout-hungry heavyweight, before fighting Rocky Balboa in the '80s movie sequel: "Prediction? Pain."
Kimbo Slice, a mostly bald, bearded, knockout-hungry heavyweight, before fighting Tay Bledsoe in Nebraska this past weekend: “The fight will only last as long as he can endure the pain.”
10. There's only one thing wrong with the new Bernard Hopkins wax figure at a Ripley's Believe it or Not exhibit.
It isn’t talking…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org